Originally: Aristide accused of fostering violence
WASHINGTON – A top U.S. diplomat Thursday accused former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of personally stirring the violence there and said Washington has expressed its concerns to South Africa, where he is living in exile.
”We believe that his people are receiving instructions directly from his voice and indirectly through his acolytes that communicate with him personally in South Africa,” said Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
”As a longtime observer of Haiti and a longtime consumer of information about Haiti, it is abundantly clear to me . . . that Aristide and his camp are singularly responsible for most of the violence and for the concerted nature of the violence,” Noriega told The Herald.
His statement was the strongest so far blaming Aristide for the violence that has rocked the country since his ouster early last year amid an armed uprising. In the past, Washington has blamed the violence more generally on Aristide’s Lavalas Family Party.
The violence, which has increased significantly since September, is threatening to affect the Oct. 9 local elections and Nov. 13 legislative and presidential elections. Hundreds are estimated to have died in clashes involving armed gangs of Aristide supporters and foes and U.N. peacekeepers.
”A few hundred principal bad guys” are behind the violence, Noriega said in a telephone interview.
He made a quick visit to Haiti two weeks ago for a close-up look at the political and security situation.
Asked if the U.S. government had expressed its concerns to South African officials, Noriega said, “We have had the diplomatic contacts that you would expect us to have with the key actors, explaining that Aristide’s role is not a helpful one.”
A South African government spokesman in Pretoria declined to comment.
Noriega also urged the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as MINUSTAH, to take a more ”proactive role” in going after the armed pro-Aristide gangs. He said the gangs were not many in numbers but were strategically based in slums near the airport road and commercial districts, allowing them to damage the Haitian economy.
A CENTRAL ROLE
He said there also were some ”opportunistic criminal organizations” that engaged in kidnappings and other crimes, but that it was “also extraordinarily apparent that Aristide and his gangs are playing a central role in generating violence, and trying to sow insecurity.”
Noriega said Aristide had a 15-year ”pattern” of using political violence and that it was not surprising that he was making “this one last stand to terrorize the Haitian people and deny them good government.”
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council voted to send 1,000 more security forces to bolster the 8,300-strong force already there.
The Brazilian-led peacekeeping force has been widely criticized for doing too little to disarm criminal gangs.
He praised the U.N. decision but added that the success or failure of MINUSTAH “depends on what they do in the next days and weeks.”
Asked if there was a resurgence in drug trafficking through Haiti because of lack of security, Noriega said, ”I don’t know that we can say that it’s gotten appreciably worse” but that there was a sense that drug traffickers were trying to set a stronger foothold in Haiti.